- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

Violent crime is up in every part of the District this year, but police statistics show that the types of crimes plaguing communities vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

For example, the 6th and 7th police districts — which comprise poor and working-class neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River — lead the city in the number of homicides, accounting for 40 of the 82 killings recorded through June.

But those neighborhoods rank near the bottom for robberies, which occur most frequently in the 1st and 3rd districts — which encompass affluent communities in Northwest and downtown.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday announced plans to meet with federal officials to seek help in dealing with the crime wave and called for emergency meetings to identify specific problems.

“Within the next week, every [police service area] in this city should be having a meeting to deal specifically with the problems in that particular part of the city, because it varies. What’s a problem in one part of the city is not necessarily a problem in another. Robberies, homicides, shootings in some; maybe it’s burglaries, theft from auto in another,” Chief Ramsey said.

The police chief announced a crime emergency Tuesday, noting a dramatic increase in robberies and assaults and 13 homicides this month, including the stabbing of a British political activist in Georgetown. The suspects in that slaying are from Southeast.

Chief Ramsey said the increase reflects a trend in which criminals strike in areas where they don’t live, pointing out that about 40 percent of suspects arrested in the 3rd District since January don’t live there.

The 3rd District, which also leads the city in assaults with a deadly weapon, includes the Northwest neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, Farragut North and Mount Pleasant.

“The point is that people can travel,” said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, a Democrat who represents Ward 1, where the 3rd District is located. “You’ve got to deal with crime where it is.”

Skip Coburn, chairman of the police department’s 1st District Citizens Advisory Council, said police commanders have noted the increase in crime during meetings with citizens, adding that tourists, restaurants, theaters, hotels and businesses downtown make appealing criminal targets.

“There’s a lot of stuff centered in the downtown/Capitol Hill area that doesn’t happen in the 7th District,” he said.

The 1st District includes the Mall and downtown, as well as some parts of Northeast and Southwest.

Census data compiled by the D.C. Office of Planning show that the District’s highest median incomes and home values are found in the Northwest quadrant, its lowest in the Southeast quadrant.

Yesterday, a police commander who was reassigned over his comments regarding crime in Georgetown this week apologized for his remarks.

Cmdr. Andy Solberg, who was reassigned from the 2nd District to the department’s Office of Security, was trying to urge vigilance during a community meeting Monday in a Georgetown church.

“I would think that at 2 a.m. on the streets of Georgetown, a group of three people — one of whom is 15 years old, one of whom is a bald, chunky, fat guy — are going to stand out,” he said Monday. “They were black. This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown. This is a fact of life.”

Cmdr. Solberg yesterday said his comments were “insensitive” and “inartful.”

“I want our city to move forward from this incident, and I want to offer my sincere apology to those I hurt with my comments,” he said.

Though most Georgetown residents are white, many blacks also reside in the tony neighborhood.

Meanwhile, a groundswell of support is developing for the police commander.

In a posting on the Cleveland Park listserv, Georgetown resident Len Oliver said 2nd District officers had told him they considered Cmdr. Solberg a “policeman’s policeman” and a “first-class cop.”

“If someone had reported the four black youth at 2 a.m. on a side street in Georgetown the morning of the incident, a man’s life may have been saved,” Mr. Oliver said in an e-mail. “Weighed against ‘political correctness,’ I’d put priority on a person’s life! I think this was Commander Solberg’s point.”

Other residents said Chief Ramsey overreacted and was being politically correct by reassigning Cmdr. Solberg.

“He, out of the entire police force, cared more about Georgetown than anybody,” said Jennifer Rogers, 39, who said she was at Monday’s community meeting. “I know from the neighbors and residents I’ve spoken with in Georgetown it’s a huge loss, and we’re irate.”

Page Evans, a member of the Georgetown Crime Stoppers Committee, said Cmdr. Solberg — who began his post as acting commander in April — was active in the community and gave his direct e-mail address to residents so he could be advised of their concerns.

Ms. Evans, 40, said many residents would be writing letters to Chief Ramsey decrying the reassignment and asking that Cmdr. Solberg be reinstated as commander.

“All the people who were [at the meeting] are upset about his reassignment,” she said. “I don’t think he’s a racist at all. It was taken out of context.”

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